Quotulatiousness

February 21, 2015

Ace unloads on the media over their “coverage” of the Ebola outbreak

Filed under: Health,Media,Science,USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At Ace of Spades H.Q., Ace is underwhelmed by the Washington Post‘s belated acknowledgement that they aided and abetted the CDC in downplaying the seriousness of the Ebola outbreak last year:

Scientists: “There Was Almost a Rush to Assure the Public That We Knew A Lot More Than We Did” About Ebola; Experts Now Concede Ebola May Be Transmitted by Purely Airborne Route

Incidentally, the Washington Post, which is itself an Expert at Writing to whom you should bow and scrape, reported his words as “there was a rush to ensure the public,” which is not what he said, because it’s stupid. And if he did say it, you throw a “(sic)” after it to indicate the error is in the quoted material, not in your own writing.

[…]

I assume he is speaking here of a proper airborne transmission, and not the layman’s “airborne” transmission; either way, the experts who so ensuredly ensured us that there was no way to get ebola from the air were wrong.

Not just wrong. Arrogantly and loudly wrong.

See, the media is not particularly bright but they are Bossy and they like pretending they Love Science. So when they see an opportunity to Pretend to Be Scientists and Yell At Their Dumb Readers, they seize upon it, even if they don’t have any idea about what the fuck they are talking. (Note preposition smartly undangled, all expert-like.)

The media were always wrong on this, and the CDC was always deliberately deceptive. This new information about an actual airborne route of transmission is new (ish), but even before, the CDC was falsely suggesting that “no airborne transmission” meant that you could not catch ebola except by direct contact with an infected person or his fluids, like his blood and stool.

They sort of forgot that his “spit” and vapor in his breath counted as “liquids,” so you could in fact catch ebola by what the layman would call an airborne route. (Scientists do not call this path of transmission “airborne” transmission, but rather “spray” transmission or “droplet transmission.”)

The CDC deliberately lied to people, and the demented little Apple Polishers of the media rushed to scream at the rest of the class that you could not possibly get ebola by anything other than direct contact.

Don’t learn firearms “rules” from the big screen

Filed under: Media,USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Robert Farago learned a lot from watching TV and movies. Luckily, it didn’t kill him:

My main squeeze had never watched High Noon. Thanks to Netflix, I rectified that omission. I hadn’t seen Gary Cooper’s darting eyes in a good forty years. Watching the Marshal fail to marshal the townspeople to defend themselves against a quartet of outlaws, it all came flooding back. How a good man sometimes has to stand alone. How fine Grace Kelly looked in a skin-tight bodice (not an observation I shared with my SO). How a single shot can make a man fall down dead in an instant. Wait. What? Yup. Here are three really stupid lessons I learned from watching cowboy movies as a kid …

1. Handguns kill instantly

What I learned …

Thanks to Saturday matinée westerns on UHF TV, I grew-up believing bad guys died when you shot them. They did so without hesitation, deviation or repetition. One bullet was more than enough to shuffle a bad guy off this mortal coil. I also learned that the good guy never dies from a gunshot wound, although he sometimes seems to. And if a bad guy’s bullet does take out a good guy — usually a supporting player — he’s got more than enough time to say something heroic and stoic first.

Truth be told …

With modern medical care and internal combustion-powered hospital transportation, most people who get shot live. No matter what caliber ammo you use, it’s really hard to stop someone in their tracks with a handgun round. Even if you hit the bad guy center mass, perforating his heart or severing a major artery, they’ve got at least 30 seconds to drag your ass into the afterlife with them.

February 15, 2015

“Smart” TV? Oh, no thanks. I prefer mine not to spy on my every word…

Filed under: Business,Law,Liberty,Media,Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Techdirt, Karl Bode sings the praises of dumb TVs that don’t share your every word with unspecified “third parties” who may or may not have any compunction about further sharing of what happens in your home (within audio range of your TV, anyway):

Samsung has been doing a great job this week illustrating why consumers should want their televisions to be as dumb as technologically possible. The company took heat for much of the week after its privacy policy revealed Samsung smart TVs have been collecting and analyzing user living room conversations in order to improve voice recognition technology. While that’s fairly common for voice recognition tech, the idea of living room gear that spies on you has been something cable operators have been patenting for years. And while Samsung has changed its privacy policy language to more clearly illustrate what it’s doing, the fact that smart TV security is relatively awful has many people quite justly concerned about smart TVs becoming another poorly-guarded repository for consumer data.

But it’s something else stupid that Samsung did this week that got less press attention, but that I actually find far more troubling. Numerous Samsung smart TV users around the world this week stated that the company has started injecting ads into content being watched on third-party devices and services. For example, some users found that when streaming video content from PC to the living room using Plex, they suddenly were faced with a large ad for Pepsi that actually originated from their Samsung TV:

    “Reports for the unwelcome ad interruption first surfaced on a Subreddit dedicated to Plex, the media center app that is available on a variety of connected devices, including Samsung smart TVs. Plex users typically use the app to stream local content from their computer or a network-attached storage drive to their TV, which is why many were very surprised to see an online video ad being inserted into their videos. A Plex spokesperson assured me that the company has nothing to do with the ad in question.”

Now Samsung hasn’t responded yet to this particular issue, and you’d have to think that the company accidentally enabled some kind of trial ad injection technology, since anything else would be idiotic brand seppuku (in fact it does appear like it has been working with Yahoo on just this kind of technology). Still, users say the ads have them rushing to disable the smart portion of Samsung TVs, whether that’s by using a third party solution or digging into the bowels of the TV’s settings to refuse Samsung’s end user agreement. And that raises an important point: many consumers (myself included) want their TV to be as slack-jawed, glassy-eyed, dumb and dim-witted as possible.

February 8, 2015

Refuting the “Golden Age of Television” meme

Filed under: History,Humour,Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A few years back, Livejournal user Squid314 took issue with the idea that we’re somehow enjoying a great era of TV programming lately:

As I mentioned in my last entry, I’ve been watching Babylon 5 lately. It’s not a perfect show, but it has one big advantage: it’s consistent and believable.

Contrast this with Doctor Who. Doctor Who is fun to watch, but if you think about it for more than two seconds you notice it’s full of plot holes and contradictions. Things that cause time travel paradoxes that threaten to destroy the universe one episode go without a hitch the next. And the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver, and the Doctor’s biology gain completely different powers no one’s ever alluded to depending on the situation. The aliens are hysterically unlikely, often without motives or believable science, the characters will do any old insane thing when it makes the plot slightly more interesting, and everything has either a self-destruct button or an easily findable secret weakness that it takes no efforts to defend against.

[…]

So Doctor Who is not a complete loss. But then there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.

I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called “World War II”.

Let’s start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn’t look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn’t get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn’t even mind the lack of originality if they weren’t so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we’re supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren’t that evil. And that’s not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

Not that the good guys are much better. Their leader, Churchill, appeared in a grand total of one episode before, where he was a bumbling general who suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Ottomans of all people in the Battle of Gallipoli. Now, all of a sudden, he’s not only Prime Minister, he’s not only a brilliant military commander, he’s not only the greatest orator of the twentieth century who can convince the British to keep going against all odds, he’s also a natural wit who is able to pull out hilarious one-liners practically on demand. I know he’s supposed to be the hero, but it’s not realistic unless you keep the guy at least vaguely human.

[…]

…and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin’ unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you’re starting to wonder if any of the show’s writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.

I’m not even going to get into the whole subplot about breaking a secret code (cleverly named “Enigma”, because the writers couldn’t spend more than two seconds thinking up a name for an enigmatic code), the giant superintelligent computer called Colossus (despite this being years before the transistor was even invented), the Soviet strongman whose name means “Man of Steel” in Russian (seriously, between calling the strongman “Man of Steel” and the Frenchman “de Gaulle”, whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot).

So yeah. Stay away from the History Channel. Unlike most of the other networks, they don’t even try to make their stuff believable.

February 5, 2015

QotD: “Can We All Shut Up About the Weather for a While?”

Filed under: Humour,Media,Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Can we shut up about weather for a while, especially weather that is totally in keeping with the seasons in which it’s taking place? It’s only 2015, but it seems like we get storms of the century about every three to six months. Our parents famously walked three miles (uphill both ways, mind you) in sub-zero and scorching temperatures in shoes made of detergent-box cardboard while also mining coal and smoking unfiltered cigarettes by the carton. And here we are, snug in our all-wheel-drive vehicles and Gore-Tex weather wear, demanding work and school be canceled on a 40% likelihood of snow flurries.

Summer has heat waves, winter has snowstorms, get over it. Ever since The Weather Channel first went live in 1982, Americans have been in love with “weather porn,” those swirling animated displays of pixels that change from green to yellow to orange to red to blue while moving rightward across your TV, computer, or smartphone screens. We stand transfixed like 12-year-old boys looking at a centerfold for the first time as reporters dressed like the Gorton’s Fisherman stand in the rain and tell us… it’s raining. Or, worse yet, that it’s not raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing.

Part of the weather hype is driven by hysteria over global warming, which means that weather — once delivered by genial weirdos like Willard Scott and David Letterman — is as big a deal as the latest American misadventure in the Middle East (for the record, I believe that climate change is taking place, that human activity is part of the cause, and that the best way to deal with it is to remediate its effects rather than simply pull the plug on human progress).

As one Twitter wag put it in response to the non-blizzard of the moment, “Remember: no snow = global warming, lots of snow = global warming, less snow than you thought = global warming.” The important thing being, of course, that we always feel bad about ourselves no matter what’s happening.

Nick Gillespie, “Can We All Shut Up About the Weather for a While?”, Time, 2015-01-27.

February 3, 2015

A biography of Joss Whedon

Filed under: Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In City Journal, Benjamin Plotinsky talks about a new biography of the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Serenity, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered in March 1997. The show’s name suggested either camp or children’s programming, which was probably why the network had wanted to call it simply Slayer. But Whedon insisted on the full name, Pascale writes. “As he explained, each word was crucial to understanding the show: ‘One of them is funny, one is scary, one of them is action.’” It wasn’t the last time that Whedon would make a questionable marketing decision. To this day, plenty of people who correctly point to The Sopranos and The Wire as high points of turn-of-the-century television don’t realize that Buffy, despite its name, was one of the most impressive products of that impressive period, which is to say, one of the best TV shows ever made.

The show wasn’t simply about a superpowered high schooler whose calling was to fight demons and periodically save the world. It was an allegory for American adolescence. The monsters and apocalypses represented — seldom so obviously as to induce cringes — many of the problems that teenagers routinely confront, and they forced the heroine to face problems that the rest of us must face sometimes, too: unpopularity, abandonment, fear, misery, loneliness, helplessness. Sometimes Buffy prevailed through simple self-reliance; more often, through the help of her friends, a group of smart misfits who distinguished themselves from others in their high school — and simultaneously endeared themselves to viewers everywhere — by speaking a clever, grammar-mangling patois that fans soon dubbed Buffyspeak. (“Punishing yourself like this is pointless,” Buffy’s mentor tells her early in the show’s second season. “It’s entirely pointy,” she retorts.) The wit of the dialogue balanced the pain of the plots, as Whedon put his characters through the emotional wringer with a perceptiveness seldom matched on the small screen — or the big.

Buffy ended in 2003, but Whedon was already running other projects and would continue to pilot more, most of them in science fiction or fantasy. They included a number of TV shows (Angel, Dollhouse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and movies (Serenity, The Cabin in the Woods, Much Ado About Nothing), as well as an innovative, self-produced miniseries, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, distributed online. Deserving special mention is Firefly, a hugely promising TV series that mixed country-Western and sci-fi plots while showcasing Whedon’s trademarks: clever dialogue, perceptive psychology, and a motley crew of outsiders. The Fox network canceled Firefly after just 14 episodes, citing low viewership, which Pascale blames chiefly on Fox’s poor advertising for the show. Whedon may have deserved some of the blame, too. Firefly opened with a contemplative, almost dismal theme song, composed by Whedon himself, that captured the series’ spirit nicely but almost certainly put off many first-time viewers. Perhaps Whedon was once again insisting on artistic integrity at the price of practical success.

Until 2012, it seemed likely that Whedon’s name would be permanently associated with Buffy. That year, however, the best of the recent crop of comic-book flicks — The Avengers, written and directed by Whedon — became the third-highest-grossing movie of all time. Who better to helm a movie about a team of smart, squabbling mavericks who ultimately unite to save the world than the creator of Buffy and Firefly? The movie was classic Whedon: well paced, clever, and laced with dialogue at once witty and psychologically revealing. He’s currently working on a sequel, which will hit theaters this May.

Pascale’s book is carefully researched and documented, and it gives the reader a good idea of Whedon’s personality, thought process, and creative approach — no small feat for a narrative that, for the most part, must introduce its topics in chronological order. Pascale quotes Whedon often, and his insight about his own work makes the book a pleasure to read. After a conversation with composer Stephen Sondheim — who tells him, “I will always write about yearning” — Whedon starts wondering what his own chief motivation is. “Helplessness was what I realized was sort of the basic thing,” Whedon says. He varies the idea slightly in another context: “We, all of us, are alone in our own minds. … Loneliness and aloneness — which are different things — are very much, I would say, [among the] main things I focus on in my work.” Even The Avengers, Whedon says, is “a film about lonely people, because I’m making it, and my pony only does one trick.”

February 2, 2015

Super Bowl commercials Canadians didn’t get to see

Filed under: Football,Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I may have missed a few, as I didn’t get to start watching the game until near the end of the first quarter, but of the ones that Forbes included in their round-up, I recognize only the Doritos, Coca-Cola (ugh!) and #LikeAGirl ads. We certainly got more than our fair share of Ford F-150, Nissan, and The Keg ads, however. I’d show more, but a surprising number of the ads now show warnings similar to this

Superbowl ads we can't watch

I’m sure they’ll eventually clear the border, but part of the point of the advertisers paying the big bucks for the Super Bowl timeslot is the immediacy.

January 27, 2015

“Well, I certainly didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition…”

Filed under: Britain,Humour,Media,Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

January 16, 2015

Dressing up as a North Korean general is racist … even if you’re Korean

Filed under: Asia,Humour,Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Margaret Cho gets into hot water with the perpetually offended for dressing up as a North Korean general:

Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho did an impression of a North Korean general at the Golden Globes that many on Liberal Twitter attacked as racist because apparently not even people of Korean descent are allowed to make fun of Kim Jong Un.

In one of many jokes aimed at the recent Sony cyber-hack, Cho wore a Korean general costume and made fun of the lack of spectacle at the event:

“You no have thousand baby playing guitar at the same time. You no have people holding up many card to make one big picture,” she said in a thick accent. “You no have Dennis Rodman.”

Predictably, people went nuts.

The Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said Cho was “like, totes racist.” Time deputy tech editor Alex Fitzpatrick questioned how anyone could have seen the bit as anything but “broadly racist.” The International Business Times managing editor called the decision to allow it a “bad call.” And that’s just to name a few.

Cho defended herself, tweeting: “I’m of mixed North/South Korean descent — you imprison, starve and brainwash my people you get made fun of by me #hatersgonhate.”

January 15, 2015

It’s a matter of faith

Filed under: Media,Politics,Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Ace of Spades H.Q., Steven Den Beste has a guest editorial to explain why the most recent attacks by “extremists” create deep philosophical problems for our friends in the media:

The Press have created an ideology over the last fifty years or so that approaches the level of a secular religious dogma. They believe that the Press are like the referees in a football game, present everywhere but not involved in the action. Surrounded by violence, they themselves never contribute to the violence and are never the objects of violence. And they are strictly neutral, favoring no one but simply calling it all like they see it.

Except that they’ve also mixed in a big dollop of Marxist ideology: they aren’t, and shouldn’t be, strictly neutral. As good progressives they can and must work against global capitalism and everything associated with it. That means it’s OK to criticize Christianity and Judaism, for instance, because those religions are part of the Capitalist monolith. By working against all the things that Marxism says they should, this gives them credibility with the world’s proletariat, who will respond to that by leaving the press alone. Or so they think.

And violence by the world’s proletariat is a good thing because it may presage the global Socialist revolution prophesied by the sainted Marx. That includes, in particular, all the violence in the world being committed by Muslims.

Like a lot of religious dogma, this is subconscious in a lot of the press. They simply accept that it’s the way things are (or should be) and don’t worry about where it came from or whether it really makes any sense.

The lethal attack on Charlie Hebdo, and the firebombing of a tabloid in Germany, has brought out a major contradiction in the Religion of the Press, and a lot of members of the press are demonstrating their confusion in how they respond.

First, there is the fundamental dogma of press freedom: no matter what the press says or does, no one is supposed to harm them in return. They’re the referees, dammit, not players in the struggle!

Second, though, is the fact that Charlie and the Hamburg tabloid which was firebombed broke the compact by criticizing Islam. This was wrong! Not, surprisingly, because Muslim fanatics are dangerous (that is a good thing!), but because it is hoped that dangerous Muslim fanatics will fight against the Capitalist enemy which all good progressives are supposed to be working to undermine. Islam is a Third World religion, and criticizing it undermines the Press in trying to prove to the world Proletariat that the Press is on their side in the great Marxist struggle.

And as a result of this Progressive sin, Charlie Hebdo et. al. have dragged all the rest of the press into the battle, on the front line, where they no longer seem to have their assumed immunity.

January 8, 2015

Media man of the year for 2014 – Ben Trovato

Filed under: Media,Politics,USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At The Federalist Robert Tracinski nominates perhaps the most appropriate candidate for media man person of the year:

As the year winds to a close, it is traditional to pick a “man of the year,” or in our more enlightened age, a “person of the year.” I’ve never done that before, but this year there is one candidate who has left his mark so indelibly on 2014 that I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge his vast influence.

Thus, my own personal pick for 2014′s Person of the Year: Ben Trovato.

He has been everywhere and had a hand in just about every big story, from Ferguson to the University of Virginia. He has been most active in his usual fields, journalism and politics, but we can see his impact as far afield as espionage and even retail.

You’ve never heard of him? Maybe so, but you already know him very well.

For those who suspect that Ben Trovato is not a real, literal person, you’re right. But the whole point of old Ben’s influence is that it doesn’t matter whether he’s literally real. Or whether anything is literally real, for that matter.

I first heard of Ben Trovato while reading a curious little volume of unusual word origins. A number of these supposed etymologies, most of the really colorful ones, were attributed to “Ben Trovato.” The name is taken from an old Italian saying: se non è vero, è ben trovato. Roughly translated: if it’s not true, it’s a good story. These were the kind of word origins that you really wanted to be true, but for which there was no real evidence. In contemporary parlance, they are “too good to check.”

I think you can begin to see why 2014 has been the year of Ben Trovato. It has been a year full of things that were non vero, but which had really good narratives. Or at least really convenient narratives.

December 30, 2014

How did so many episodes of Doctor Who go missing?

Filed under: Britain,History,Media,Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Samizdata, Patrick Crozier explains how the cost of a new technology and the union work rules of the 1960s led to so many great (and not-so-great) British TV shows being lost to posterity:

Something like two fifths of the Doctor Who episodes produced before 1970 are “missing” from the BBC archive. Although it is now 20 years since I found out about it, I still find it difficult to believe that such an act of cultural vandalism was allowed to take place. But it was.

So why are so many missing? In Wiped! Richard Molesworth describes the whole sorry tale in exhaustive (and some times exhausting) detail. It begins with Doctor Whos being recorded on videotape. In the 1960s videotape was a new technology and as such, expensive. Broadcasters were understandably keen to re-use the tapes whenever they could.

Another factor in this was the deal that the BBC had made with the actors’ union Equity. Younger readers may be unfamiliar with this but in the 1960s and 1970s unions were extraordinarily powerful. The deal between Equity and the BBC meant that an episode could only be repeated for two years and after that only with Equity’s specific permission. So, you’d have a situation where after 2 years you would have videotapes that effectively could not be broadcast and an engineering department banging on the door demanding they be allowed to wipe them. As a consequence every single inch of 1960s Doctor Who was wiped. It was far from alone. Episodes of Top of the Pops, the Likely Lads, Not only but also…, Z-Cars, Til death us do part and many others met a similar fate.

In the interests of fairness I should point out that when it came to wiping TV programmes the BBC was far from the only offender. There is almost nothing left of the first season of the Avengers for instance. Or Sexton Blake. About half of the highly-rated Callan (played by Edward Woodward) is also missing. However, all the Saints and Danger Mans are still with us. Meanwhile, my understanding is that most American TV, even from the 1950s still exists.

And compounding the problem … even when the BBC wanted to get rid of old episodes of TV shows, they still held the copyrights:

One thing that particularly sticks in my craw is the fact that even after the BBC did everything in its power to destroy these episodes it still has copyright to them. This has some very peculiar effects as I shall explain.

As I said, many episodes no longer exist as films or tapes. But all the audios exist (recorded off-air by fans), as do the scripts and a large number of photographs, otherwise known as “tele-snaps”. Over the years a cottage industry has grown up assembling these disparate elements into what are known as “reconstructions”. Now, they’re not very good and they are really only for the dedicated fan – people like me in other words – but right now they are the best we’ve got. Sadly, these too are affected by BBC copyright. For many years they were only available on videotape and on a non-profit basis. The producers were wary of annoying the BBC. And then one day someone (quite reasonably you’d think) decided to start putting them up on YouTube. Oh dear, the BBC really didn’t like that. Not only did they force YouTube to take a whole load of them down but seem to have closed down the reconstruction business temporarily if not permanently. Bastards.

December 28, 2014

P.J. O’Rourke is forced to watch an episode of Girls

Filed under: Humour,Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t bowled over … at least not in a good way:

Ms. Dunham is 28. I was under the impression that “girls” is a demeaning term for adult women. The title must have something to do with this hipster “Irony” thing, which I confess I don’t understand. The root of the word irony is in the Greek eironeia, “liar.”

I had my 14-year-old daughter, Poppet, instruct me in how to watch an episode of Girls on my computer. (Turns out “content” is not completely “free.”)

Two seconds into the opening credits I was trying to get my daughter out of the room by any means possible. “Poppet! Look in the yard! The puppy’s on fire! Quick! Quick! Run outside and roll him in the snow!”

It turns out Girls is a serialized horror movie — more gruesome, frightening, grim, dark, and disturbing than anything that’s ever occurred to Stephen King.

I have two daughters, Poppet and her 17-year-old sister Muffin. Girls is about young people who are only a few years older than my daughters. These young people, portrayed as being representative of typical young people, reside in a dumpy, grubby, woeful part of New York called Brooklyn, where Ms. Dunham should put her clothes back on.

I lived in New York for fifteen years. No one had been to Brooklyn since the Dodgers left in 1957.

The young people in Girls are miserable, peevish, depressed, hate their bodies, themselves, their life, and each other. They occupy apartments with the size and charm of the janitor’s closet, shared by The Abominable Roommate. They dress in clothing from the flophouse lost-and-found and are groomed with a hacksaw and gravel rake. They are tattooed all over with things that don’t even look like things the way a anchor or a mermaid or a heart inscribed “Mom” does, and they’re only a few years older than my daughters.

The characters in Girls take drugs. They “hook up” in a manner that makes the casual sex of the 1960s seem like an arranged marriage in Oman. And they drink and they vomit and they drink and they vomit and they drink and they vomit.

It’s every parent’s nightmare. I had to have a lot to drink before I could get to sleep after watching this show about young people who are only a few years older than my daughters.

[…]

Consternation has also been caused because Ms. Dunham admits to, as a child, having done with her younger sister what used to be obliquely called “playing doctor,” leading her to be condemned for trivializing sexual assault.

And I’m supposed to have an opinion about all this.

My opinion is that Lena Dunham created and stars in a television series on HBO called Girls, about young people who are only a couple of years older than my daughters.

I’m looking into Women-only military schools run by strict nuns for Poppet and Muffin. I think there’s one in the Philippines.

December 23, 2014

James Lileks reflects on the 50th anniversary of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Filed under: Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:02

Oh, he’s nostalgic enough:

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special. For those remembering how they stared with wonder and awe at the jerky stop-motion animation and shivered with delicious fear at the perils faced by the plucky buck with the incandescent schnoz, the notion that this program occurred a half century ago would be a marvelous testament to the enduring power of the show’s appeal … if it didn’t make you feel so damned old.

If it does, that is. For young kids today it’s a cultural artifact from a time so remote it might as well be the Renaissance. The snowman’s resemblance to Burl Ives doesn’t make them think of a hefty folkie howling with alcoholic rage in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; the concept of a “misfit” doesn’t echo a decade of neurotic intellectual culture celebrating the outsider who couldn’t find his place in the grey-flannel machinery.

It’s charming and tuneful and justly revered. So let’s spoil it by overthinking the details and applying the corrosive idiocy of modern standards, shall we? Herewith a few points to consider.

[…]

– Kids today are appalled by the brusque coach who regards Rudolph as a freak and clearly sides with the normal reindeer youth. Nowadays the character would recognize Rudolph’s specialness right away, and the entire show would have been about his fight to get Rudolph on the team, culminating in an impassioned speech before a congressional committee and the passage of Rudolph’s Law.

By the way, when I was a kid we understood the coach character’s nasty reaction — not because we sympathized with him, but because phys-ed teachers were jerks.

The Abominable Snowman. Let us be frank: The moment when Rudolph sets out on a floe to draw the Snowman away from his friends is one of the more noble moments of childhood television, married with dismay: You know he had no chance. To a small child who has finally grasped the narrative, it was really scary, because Rudolph was going to die.

Parents watching along may have wanted to say “See what happens when you run off with your weird friends? This is what happens. You break your mother’s heart and your intestines are slurped up by a murderous albino.”

December 14, 2014

New BBC historical TV series as accurate as possible … except for the codpieces being “too small”

Filed under: Britain,History,Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 00:02

Apparently, the fear was that US TV audiences would be shocked by authentic sized boasting pieces:

They may have been the crowning glory for any right-thinking Tudor gentleman, but it appears the traditional codpiece may be a little too much for American television viewers.

The stars of Wolf Hall, the BBC’s new period drama based on the novels of Hilary Mantel, have disclosed they have been issued with “smaller”-than average codpieces, out of respect for viewers’ sensibilities.

Mark Rylance, who stars as Thomas Cromwell in the forthcoming BBC series, said programme-makers had decided on “very small codpieces” which had to be “tucked away”.

He suggested allowances had been made amid concerns about the taste of modern audiences, particularly in America, who “may not know exactly what’s going on down there”.

It is one of few concessions permitted by programme-makers, who have otherwise gone to remarkable lengths to ensure historical accuracy, including trips to Shakespeare’s Globe to learn sword-fighting, lessons in etiquette and bowing, and a comprehensive study on spoons.

Mantel has given her seal of approval to the production, issuing a statement of glowing praise for how it has been adapted on screen.

Saying she was pleased programme-makers had resisted the temptation to “patronise” the Tudors to make them “cute”, she said: “My expectations were high and have been exceeded.”

When asked about the costumes in a Q&A to launch the BBC show, alongside actors Damian Lewis and Claire Foy, Rylance said they “did take a while to put on” but praised the overall effect.

“I think the codpieces are too small,” he added. “I think it was a direction from our American producers PBS [the US public service broadcaster] – they like very small codpieces which always seemed to be tucked away.”

When asked to clarify, he said: “I wasn’t personally disappointed by the codpieces: I’m a little more used to them than other people from being at the Globe for ten years.

“But I can see for modern audiences, perhaps more in America, they may not know exactly what’s going on down there.”

H/T to David Stamper for the link(s).

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